Congressional Democrats are reacting to a recent Supreme Court ruling by proposing legislation that would amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and effectively give workers more time to file a complaint alleging pay discrimination under the law.
Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) say they will introduce legislation next week to remove a "technical hurdle" created by a Supreme Court ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), George Miller (D-CA), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that they will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the deadline for workers to file a pay-bias complaint under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is 180 days from the date the decision on their pay is made and communicated to them.
In general, an individual wishing to bring a discrimination lawsuit must first file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred."
The question before the Supreme Court was whether the clock on that 180 days restarts each time an employee receives a paycheck that reflects past discrimination. The court ruled that it didn't.
The lawmakers say their legislation will state expressly that the statute of limitations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 runs from the date of each payment of a discriminatory wage.
"Yesterday's Supreme Court decision reflects a poor understanding of the real problems with long-term pay discrimination," said Senator Harkin. "Most new employees feel less comfortable challenging their salaries, and it is very difficult to determine when pay discrimination begins. Furthermore, a small pay gap tends to widen over time, only becoming noticeable when there is systemic discrimination over a period of years. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to ensure every worker receives the paycheck he or she deserves."
Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber's plant in Gadsden, Alabama. At first, her pay was in line with the salaries of men, but over time a gap developed between her salary and the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and was paid $44,724 per year. By comparison, the pay of the lowest paid male area manager was $51,432 per year.